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March 6, 2012
A Texan wearing a No. 8 Arizona jersey and playing quarterback was peppered with questions from the media Monday following the Wildcats' first spring practice under head coach Rich Rodriguez.
But that's about the only thing 5-11, 183-pound junior Richard Morrison appeared to have in common with 6-5, 240-pound Nick Foles - the school's all-time passing leader and starter last season who is now preparing for the NFL draft.
"I told Nick Foles I was going to take after him," said Morrison, who wore No. 14 last season and played wide receiver, where he caught 22 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games.
Morrison, who played quarterback in high school and was originally recruited by UA to do the same, said "it was a little weird" taking snaps again but eventually found himself in a "comfortable," old position.
As an incoming freshman out of Royce City (Texas) High School, Morrison redshirted as a true freshman in 2009 and was turned into a wide receiver the following year.
"At the beginning (of practice) I was really nervous. I was like, 'Oh, my gosh. I haven't done this in a long time,'" the dual-threat Morrison said.
Morrison added that he will not be the type to sit back in the pocket and fire passes all day like Foles - especially not in UA's new read-option offense - but he won't be the starting quarterback like Foles, either. That job belongs to redshirt senior Matt Scott.
"We're kind of going back and forth trying to help each other," Scott said. "It's pretty good for us."
Rodriguez needed some depth behind his lone returning scholarship signal caller so he asked Morrison to revisit the position.
To prepare, Morrison said he has watched film of former West Virginia quarterback Pat White and Michigan star Denard Robinson - both of whom played for Rodriguez and UA quarterbacks coach Rod Smith.
"I was pretty excited. I was like, 'Well, I can play quarterback and wide receiver?'" Morrison recalled. "And then [Rodriguez said], "Well, we want to try you out at quarterback and see how it works.' Oh, my gosh. Like high school days."
Morrison said that he will eventually do some drills as a receiver, but for now it's about learning the position and Rodriguez's system. Morrison spent the first day at the Jimenez Practice Facility exclusively at quarterback.
"It's perfect for me," Morrison said about the offense. "I'm fast and I can throw so it's going to be pretty good."
Senior receiver Terrence Miller, who was Morrison's roommate last season, said that the two "did plenty of workouts together."
While he added that Morrison was a "very good athlete," Miller said that his teammate has been "a quarterback all his life" and "in his heart."
Morrison likely won't have the fans in Tucson forgetting about Foles if Scott can stay healthy and hold on to the starting job for the whole season. But Miller said that Morrison possesses "a big-time arm."
So, how big?
"I can throw it about 65, 70 yards on a good day," Morrison said. "Just got to get back to throwing every day and get my muscles back right."
With only walk-on quarterbacks Alex Cappellini and Tyler D'Amore alongside him to backup Scott, it looks like Morrison will have the opportunity to do so.
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor
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